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Safety of Repeated Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation in Impaired Skin: A Case Report

Shiozawa, Pedro MD*; da Silva, Mailu Enokibara MD*; Raza, Rosamaria MD*; Uchida, Ricardo Riyoiti MD, PhD; Cordeiro, Quirino MD, PhD*†; Fregni, Felipe MD, MHS, PhD; Brunoni, Andre Russowsky MD, PhD*†§

doi: 10.1097/YCT.0b013e318279c1a1
Case Reports

Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) is a neuromodulatory technique based on the application of a weak, direct electric current via 2 or more electrodes (anode and cathode) over the scalp. One concern when applying tDCS is skin burn. It has been suggested that skin lesions are related to changes in the local dermal homeostasis, and therefore, caution is warranted in patients with skin diseases (Loo et al [Int J Neuropsychopharmacol. 2011;14:425–426]). In this context, we believe that it would be useful for this emerging field of tDCS to report the preliminary safety of repeated application of tDCS in a patient with vitiligo, an autoimmune disorder characterized by depigmentation sites of the skin or mucous membranes. We report the case of a 31-year-old male patient with schizophrenia who underwent 10-daily tDCS sessions. He has had generalized vitiligo since childhood, and despite previous treatment, no current dermatologic follow-up was being carried out. Depigmentation sites were evident in different areas, particularly under the anodal area. We found that repeated anodal tDCS in 1 patient did not lead to skin lesions when applied over a vitiligo skin area. Some of the procedures that we used to buffer changes in skin temperature may have contributed to prevent tDCS-induced skin damage. Nevertheless, the exact conditions that lead to skin lesion are still unknown. Given the growing use and testing of tDCS, continuous assessment and reporting of local adverse effects are still warranted especially in conditions with increased risk of skin lesions such as in dermatologic conditions, skin burns, and previous skin damage.

From the *The Laboratory of Neuromodulation, Department of Psychiatry, and †Department of Psychiatry, Santa Casa Medical School, São Paulo, Brazil; ‡Laboratory of Neuromodulation and Center for Clinical Research Training, Harvard University, Boston, MA; and §Center for Clinical Research, Hospital Universitário, University of São Paulo, Brazil.

Received for publication July 16, 2012; accepted October 17, 2012.

Reprints: Pedro Shiozawa, MD, Psychiatric Department, Santa Casa Medical School, Rua Major Maragliano, 241, Vila Mariana, 0460001, São Paulo, Brazil (e-mail:

The authors have no conflicts of interest or financial disclosures to report.

© 2013 by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins